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Lakers, Buckeyes to relive the past

Lake Superior State captain Jeremy Bachusz (15) takes charge in front of the net.

Nov. 5, 2002

File photo - SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State hockey coach Frank Anzalone often compares this year's Laker team to the teams he had when he first took over as head coach in the early 1980s.

In 1982-83, which was the year Anzalone replaced Bill Selman as head coach midway through the season, the Lakers finished 11th in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, while Ohio State was third. The following year, LSSU was eighth in the CCHA, and OSU finished second.

Twenty years later the Lakers and Buckeyes find themselves in similar circumstances. The Lakers (3-5-0 overall, 0-4-0 CCHA) are fighting desperately to move out of last place in the CCHA. Ohio State (4-2-1 overall, 1-0-1 CCHA), meanwhile, is a veteran team expected to finish in the league's upper tier.

The Buckeyes' roster includes eight seniors and 10 juniors. While teams have been keying on National Hockey League first-round draft picks R.J. Umberger and Dave Steckel, freshmen Dan Knapp and Ryan Kesler have been leading OSU in scoring.

Knapp, a 5-11, 185-pound forward from Rochester, Mich., has five goals and four assists in his last six games. Kesler, a 6-2, 195-pound forward from Livonia, Mich., has one goal and a team-leading seven assists. The Lakers recruited Kesler last year, but he opted for the OSU campus.

"We're in a position that you always hope a team phases into," said OSU eighth-year coach John Markell, who is relying on his upperclassmen to teach his talented underclassmen how to win. "We have a large junior class, and they have gone through some tough times, some really trying times."

Markell said that OSU's upperclassmen revived a program that briefly hit bottom when its talent pool was depleted due to free-agent signings.

Anzalone believes it's only a matter of time before veterans like Umberger and Steckel surge forward for OSU, which picked up three points in last year's series with LSSU. In a 5-0 victory over the Lakers in 2001-02, Umberger, a 6-2, 202-pound junior forward from Pittsburgh, Pa., had two goals and an assist. Steckel, a 6-5, 210-pound junior forward from West Bend, Wis., added three assists. Both played for former Laker coach Jeff Jackson on the U.S. National Developmental Team.

"They have five to eight really good forwards," Anzalone said.

OSU will likely start junior goaltender Mike Betz, who is 3-0-1 against the Lakers. He has a 2.97 goals-against average and .898 save percentage. Freshman back-up goalie Dave Caruso started his first game last Saturday.

The Buckeyes are coming off a non-conference weekend during which they lost 3-1 to ninth-ranked Cornell and defeated Colgate 6-2.

"We played two very good games," Markell said.

Anzalone was encouraged by Cornell's victory because the Big Red play a defensive brand of hockey.

"They (Cornell) are a team that plays a lot like the Lakers," he said.

Northern Michigan swept LSSU, 3-2 in Sault Ste. Marie and 3-0 at Marquette, during last weekend's home-and-home series. The Lakers proved they have come a long way since last year's series, when they were outscored 14-1 in two games. The down side is that they are still looking for their first CCHA win of the year and have suffered two heart-breaking, last-minute losses in their last three games.

"That's usually how you lose when you are at this stage," Anzalone said. "You lose heart-breakers."

In Friday's game, Northern Michigan scored two goals 27 seconds apart and took its first lead with 1:11 remaining to win the game. Prior to the Wildcats' scoring surge, the Lakers came up empty on four good scoring chances during a four-minute span.

The Lakers had few scoring chances the following night at Marquette, when they were outshot 42-18, but they held NMU scoreless in the third period after falling behind 3-0.

"Saturday's game was just a case of the better team going after the sweep," Anzalone said. "You can't kill the kids. It's not their fault that this is where the program is. They're the ones trying to bring it back."

Several Lakers are still trying to break into the scoring column and would like nothing better than to do so during Parents' Weekend. A couple players, however, have been hot lately. Freshman Jon Booras, a 5-11, 180-pound forward from Billings, Mont., scored two goals against Michigan State two weeks ago and added another goal in Friday's game against NMU.

Seniors Jeremy Bachusz (2-3-5) and Aaron Davis (2-3-5), junior Chris Peterson (2-3-5) and freshmen Colin Nicholson (0-5-5) lead the Lakers in scoring. Bachusz and Davis are also the only two Lakers who are in the black on the plus-minus chart.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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